The Thinking 

Browsing posts from May, 2010

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A Dangerous Statement

May 31, 2010


LYDIA SHERMAN, at her blog Home Living, says something that is absolutely forbidden in today’s society. She criticizes men who send their wives to work and questions their masculinity. This is a statement that will win her the hatred of both feminists and some in the men’s rights movement. She writes:

Truly masculine men will not ask their wives to go to work. They will try harder to provide for their families, or cut down on expenses so that their wives won’t have to work. Manly men will tell you that when women are not in the workplace, they get their jobs done much better. Women going to work has complicated the way things are done in the workplace, and this has not been good for the men.

Read More »


A Knock at the Door

May 31, 2010


Baltimore oriole, male
Baltimore oriole, male

THE NORTHERN ORIOLE, also known as the Baltimore Oriole, is an unusual bird, as well as one of rare beauty. The male has distinctive bright orange and black plumage, party attire in a field of grays and browns in the woodlands of the Northeast. Perhaps this festive creature avoids being eaten by hawks by rarely alighting on the ground. It flits in the upper branches and dramatically swoops from one position to another as if on a trapeze. How else to explain the Oriole’s survival given his outrageous outfit? 

The bird’s whistling, flute-like call is also distinctive and unmistakeable. We get very few Northern Orioles, but the ones we do get are easily identifiable from their perches in the woods. The whistle sounds human and they vocalize for many hours during the day.

My teenaged son and I have followed the Oriole’s habits for a few years and our amateur study of the bird is marked by both tragedy and uncommon bird-to-human communication. Read More »


How to be a Radical Traditionalist at 18

May 31, 2010



I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and I thoroughly appreciate what you write. Your blog posts are always refreshing and challenging. I wanted to ask if you would be willing to consider writing on the topic of the role of daughters within the family unit and of society as a whole. Your posts affirming the work of housewives (as in one of your recent posts) are encouraging – but as an eighteen-year-old homeschooled daughter wondering what the next chapter is in her life, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about daughters.

I would love to someday marry and be the best wife, mother, and homemaker I can possibly be – but we’re talking about the (irreplaceable) role of the mothers, the wives here – what about daughters living at home? Is it enough to stay simply at home, being a help to mother in areas including housework, homeschooling, cooking, tending a vegetable garden, etc.? Do you think a young woman should get a job, or start a home business, so that she isn’t a “burden” on her parents? Read More »


Semper Fidelis

May 31, 2010


John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa

THERE are many excellent versions on the Internet of “Semper Fidelis,” the United States Marine Corps march written by John Philip Sousa in 1889. Here is a good one and you can hear the Marine Band playing the song in 1909 here.

To our military heroes on Memorial Day, we march for thee.

Sousa and the Marine Coprs Band in 1893

Sousa and the Marine Corps Band in 1893


The Pickaxe

May 30, 2010



THE PICKAXE awakens a lust for power, or at least it does in me. This simple implement, invented by technological minds when levers were still new, inspires visions touched with grandiosity.  The thought of prying glacial boulders from the subterranean depths, of digging deep ditches, or of uprooting the feet of massive trees, all with little effort, springs to mind. The fact that one may never come close to truly spectacular feats doesn’t matter. It is the dream, the enlarged sense of possibility, that counts.

The pickaxe has been idle all winter, propped under the eaves, silent and magnificent, it’s tapered handle suave and elegant against the wall. Even careless neglect, days in damp dirt, never seem to harm its blade, pointed on one end, like a finger, blunt and flat as a spatula on the other, so very much like a hand, but much better. In early spring, the sabbatical ends and by May, I am always vaguely aware of where the pickaxe is. I almost never forget where I have left it a day or two ago. It is like the gun to the hunter, or the net to a fisherman, a material extension of being, an extra limb.

A pickaxe isn’t feminine.  But I don’t care. That assault of the earth, that moment when the flattened blade cuts the surface, as if ripping open an envelope with a long-anticipated letter inside, even when it clangs against a buried rock, is so intoxicating, I wouldn’t give it up to please anyone or to improve my image. I’m anti-feminist, but not anti-work, not anti-pickaxe. No one really likes to dig compacted earth, especially if it’s full of rocks and roots; that’s when you have to pry and pick and paw at the ground, begging for an opening. Men are better at this of course because they’re stronger, but I don’t have a personal chain-gang of diggers and I wouldn’t even want one. Digging is for lovers. Lovers of the ground. Read More »


A Summer Song

May 29, 2010



Here is an English translation of “Vackert Väder,” or “Beautiful Weather,” the Swedish hymn which inspired the song by the quartet Kraja:

 In this sweet time of summerwilliam-morris-wallpaper-s-1
Go out, my soul, and be happy for
The gifts from the great God.
Look, how the earth is decked
Look, how she, for you and me
Is in wonderful bounties.

Read More »


Reality Shows and the Longing for Normalcy

May 28, 2010



Eric writes in the entry on feminism and cooking that, “I am noticing a lot of cooking-type reality shows…I wonder how Hollywood turned meal preparation into a gladiatorial competition.” As a fan of cooking shows (though not the “reality” versions in which loud-mouthed, vulgar chefs abusively deride younger, less experienced ones), I used to wonder the same thing. But it’s not so complicated, really. The entertainment industry is now, much as it has always been, in the “dream” business. Selling visions of people’s dreams back to them is what television has been about for quite some time now, and even the element of competition is not so new, with game shows being one of the oldest and most successful kinds of programming. Look around at the prime time competition shows today and what do you see?

You see The Biggest Loser, a show about a competition in which people get to become rich and famous while losing lots of weight. Whoever thought of this wildly popular show—which has now spawned a line of books, food, videos, clothing, etc.—understands America better than most of us would care to admit. Read More »


Songs of Marriage and Blue Skies

May 27, 2010



Aficionados of The Thinking Housewife do not need to be reminded how degraded commercial culture in Europe and North America has become, how a pornographic esthetic that sexualizes everything has pervaded all forms of mass entertainment including those aimed at children and teenagers. Those aficionados will be sadly familiar with the endless succession of tarted-up adolescent songstresses marketed in glitzy style by cynical promoters to young predominantly female audiences. When any counter-phenomenon appears, it is therefore worthy of note. Read More »


Baby and Me

May 27, 2010


IN AN INTERVIEW in the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Bristol Palin makes single motherhood look great. A baby is extra work, but doesn’t interfere with a woman’s independence. A few decades ago, popular culture celebrated the single young career girl, the Mary Tyler Moore or Marlo Thomas who got her own apartment presumably before getting married and settling down. Now that popular figure has a baby too. Bristol Palin is inspirational, not for abstinence but for the single woman who wants, or is compelled, to raise her baby herself.

Elisa Lipsky-Karasz writes:

… Bristol is hardly unhappy, despite her hectic schedule and lack of sleep. “I love my baby more than anything,” she says, which is obvious from the cuddles he gets. “He’s like a Gerber baby. He’s the cutest baby in the whole world.” Read More »


It Ain’t Dinner Without Dad

May 27, 2010


RESPONDING TO this entry on the decline of the family meal, Mabel LeBeau writes:

I haven’t figured out if by modern definitions I’m feministic or feminine or merely female in gender, but have found the most effective way to conduct a family meal is participation by the father figure. If Father is the one to initiate conversations, officially nod approval over the meal, settle disputes over who gets to pass the bread first, provide approval for individual family member’s self-validation and ‘say grace,’ it’s rather pointless to call it a family meal in our home if Daddy doesn’t show up. Read More »


Bell and Helen Keller

May 26, 2010



THIS IS a famous, intensely evocative photo, taken in 1894, of Alexander Graham Bell, Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller (seated). Bell introduced Keller to her famous teacher. Keller wrote in her autobiography, The Story of My Life, about her first meeting with Bell:

Child as I was, I at once felt the tenderness and sympathy which endeared Dr. Bell to so many hearts. That interview would be the door through which I would pass through darkness into light…

… [H]e is never so happy as when he has a deaf child in his arms. His labours on behalf of the deaf will live on and bless generations of children yet to come; and we love him alike for what he has himself achieved and for what he has evoked from others.

She dedicated the book to him. Read More »


How Feminists Destroyed Dinner

May 26, 2010


THE FOOD JOURNALIST Michael Pollan approvingly quotes a statement blaming feminism for wrecking a culture of shared food and civility. His assertion seems far too timid given that millions of children now eat chicken nuggets in front of the TV. But Anna Clark at Salon objects:

Blaming feminism for luring women out of the kitchen, stealing the ritual of the family meal, and thereby diminishing “one of the nurseries of democracy” is both simplistic and ridiculous. It’s true that shared meals are powerful spaces for building relationships and “the habits of civility.” But if we’re going to talk about who’s to blame for our current culture of processed food, why not blame untold generations of men for not getting into the kitchen, especially given Pollan’s characterization of the family meal as having a meaningful role in cultivating democracy? If it’s so important, why is their absence excusable?

That’s right.  Men have been doing nothing all these years while women slaved away in the kitchen. Here’s an all-points bulletin: Do not accept a dinner invitation from anyone named Anna Clark. Unless you like chicken nuggets.



  Read More »


The French Family Dissolves

May 26, 2010



There is a movement in the United States to bring about civil unions not just for homosexuals but for heterosexual couples too. It’s interesting to observe how this idea has been instituted in France and its effect on French society. France has not abolished marriage but it has done the next best thing, given couples the option of forming their own contractual relationships according to their own terms. France has created a legal relationship form called the “Civil Pact of Solidarity” in English, or PACS using the French acronym. Read More »


Alexander Graham Bell and Mabel Hubbard

May 25, 2010

Alexander Graham Bell, Mabel Bell and their children

Alexander Graham Bell, Mabel Bell and their children

IN MARCH 1876, after more than a year of sleeplessness, harried experimentation and a neck and neck race with a competitor, Alexander Graham Bell filed the U.S. patent for the first working model of the telephone. It was the culmination of intense and varied interest by three generations of Bells in projection of the human voice.

On July 9, 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was officially inaugurated and a new era in modern communications began. Two days later, a new era in Bell’s personal life began when he married nineteen-year-old Mabel Hubbard in the parlor of her parents’ home on Brattle Street in Cambridge. It was the first time Tom Watson, Bell’s famous assistant, wore white gloves. Bell gave his wife 1,497 shares in the telephone company as a wedding gift. The Bells’ marriage lasted for forty-five years and in that time, Mabel never once used a telephone herself. She was completely deaf.

As part of my series “Famous Couples,” I look at one of the more interesting couples in the history of modern invention.  Read More »


College Girls on the Path to Success

May 25, 2010



For the second time in recent weeks, a chapter of the Pi Beta Phi sorority is being accused of drunkenly trashing a facility during a formal dance. At a March 6 party sponsored by the group’s Ohio University chapter, attendees engaged in sex acts, used plates as “missiles” during food fights, vomited on carpets, defecated in urinals, and tried to tear off the clothes of a female bartender, according to a letter written by the director of the West Virginia art center where the formal was held. Read More »


The Decline in Male Achievement, cont.

May 24, 2010



I’d like to offer a contrarian view of your post on graduation levels of men and women.

If I understand correctly Jesse Powell’s statistics are aggregate graduation rates for all undergraduate degrees. However, most undergraduate degrees are awarded for liberal arts courses, history, psychology, sociology, English, etc. I don’t have the stats handy but I’m pretty sure that if you look at graduation rates for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields you will find they are preponderantly awarded to men. Read More »


The Happy Baker

May 23, 2010



PEOPLE who make bread are the happiest people in the world.

Look at this painting by the Dutch master Jan Steen, The Leiden Baker Arend Oostwaert and His Wife. Notice how glowing Arend is and how sallow his wife. That’s obviously because he is the handler of the dough. Kneading dough is an unparalleled sensual experience and Arend’s countenance speaks of this ancient reality. I mean, it’s almost unparalleled. Anyone who makes bread from scratch at least once a week is guaranteed sanity and a better disposition than if he didn’t make bread once a week. People who never make bread suffer from repression. It doesn’t matter what it tastes like. Making it is good enough.

Read More »


The Decline of Modern Women, Chapter 8,654,392

May 23, 2010


Do you remember the glass slipper and the poisoned apple, the damsel with hair dangling from a tower window and the whole castle fast asleep? The Age of the Fairy Tale is past, dear reader. Today, we only have tales of self-fulfillment, of the social atom seeking fusion. Here is a perfect example.  In a new book, three women describe their quest for motherhood. Complete with donated sperm, abortion, miscarriage, and marriage at the last minute, it’s an anti-morality play that ends in motherhood for all. The New York Times writes:

Three would-be mothers, some “lucky” sperm and — voilà! — three happy families, with all of the pregnancies happening the old-fashioned way. Read More »

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